It was a BMW fun-fest at Car-Revs-Daily.com this Fall and we loved every minute of it.
Driving the new Z4 let us experience the amazing torque-rush of the B58 “M40” motor we loved so much in the X4 in a lighter and far more aerodynamic package. One with the wind in your hair and sun on your face. There are quite a few contrasts in the new Z4’s mission: to be both more luxurious while still keeping its playful and sporty appeal intact.
We came away thrilled with the machine for so many reasons — and only mention the Supra a few times in the below video! Detailed write-up of the Exterior, Interior and Performance details below that along with a few dozen photos of the sexy new Z4 from all angles.
The exterior of the new Z4 is the best summary of how amazingly new the machine is versus its predecessor. The new design takes an ultra rounded and curvaceous approach to the core roadster design themes that were so sliced and diced in recent Z4s. The result is a car that looks much larger overall: significantly wider and longer to the eyes.
There is validity in that sense: the new machine is four inches longer and three inches wider than before. Bigger dimensions help make sense of the larger price with its $50k base for the four-cylinder version, which might be higher than you recall for BMW’s fun and youthful roadster.
What the new design really reinforces is the shift in this generation of Z4 to a luxury focus, while giving up nothing on the performance charts. Starting up front, we have the striking horizontal kidneys so visible in the video featured image above. Vertically-stacked LED DRLs in the headlights are a major departure from any BMW in recent memory and certainly give the Z4 a distinctive look versus any other BMW.
This nose is pretty angle sensitive (best from down low) and definitely takes some time to start loving. The design purity is there, but the rival Jag F-Type and Porsche Boxster are slightly more traditionally-appealing in their noses. This Z4 does evolve its style in a way that the Merc SLC and Porsche really haven’t, however.
The stance is outstanding and the proportions are intact but more conventional than before. Z3s and the Z4 after the rebadge were originally known for their extreme cab-backword look with the seats virtually atop the rear axle and a dash-to-front-axle length that was pure exotica. The new one has longer overhangs on both ends but still looks agile and sporty.
Around profile, this new platform does tweak the proportions as noted, but the rising sill line and scalloped door cutouts are still sexy and purposely sporty over practical. The fully convex and shapely rounded clamshell hood and shoulder lines are flipped concave for the flowing area behind the slice of air extractor behind the front wheel. This and the deliberately plunging hood shutline create a purposely leaning-forward look that helps Z4 look ready to pounce.
Coming into the rear three-quarter angle and pure tail view really lets the Z4 look perfectly familiar beside the new 8 series and M850i we adored a few weeks back. But the Z4 adds a bit of wild-child attitude with its integrated flip spoiler that is deeply three-dimensional and looks very cool.
The horizontal and 3D LED line of brake light is a treat for its visual appeal and it seems BMW will own this style despite the Lexus RC beating BMW to the punch a few years prior. The RC is rare enough that most will see this as an original BMW flourish – especially now that the look is so prominent on the new 3 series, X4, X6 and 8 series.
From the back, the slightly larger trunk and overhang work in the Z4’s favor: this really looks like a low-drag sport special that is impossibly low and wide and aggressive. With its roof up, the Z4 is much more charming than its predecessor. The contrast color for the roof keeps the visual weight in the low and wide body. Overall the design is not an instant hit but grows on you easily once you spend some time behind the wheel.
Swapping from a hardtop to a softtop in this generation of Z4 makes for a much more practical machine with a trunk that more than doubles capacity. The two-seat layout is still seriously tight when it comes to bag or purse storage behind the seats, but the three extra inches of width are very welcome inside the cockpit. They bring a wider center armrest and console that helps the whole machine feel more premium than the elbow-bumping setup before.
Most evident behind the wheel is how much lower in the car you seem to be versus before. Your shoulders in the new Z4 are easily covered by the door bodywork, whereas they would have been above the line with your head popping up high in the old model.
Folks over six feet tall will be disappointed with the seat travel as the seatbacks hit the back firewall pretty rapidly. You can adjust around that issue though and still find a comfortable and purposeful drive position. And there is more seat travel than the Jag, that is for sure.
The drive position for your author at 5’11 (and slightly porky:) feels absolutely perfect. Despite being a coupe, the doors actually open quite wide in a tight space and make it very easy to get in an out.
More comfort excellence when it comes to wind refinement thanks to the integrated black-mesh wind baffle that lives between the fixed upright headrests. Sitting lower in the car or with the taller glasshouse beltline than before makes the Z4 feel more contemporary, more private and safer-feeling than before. Visibility is lousy out back, especially with the roof up, but that is also the case for all this car’s rivals.
The tech upgrades inside the Z4 are a quantum leap more advanced than the old Z4, which was canned after the 2016 model year but still had lingering new models for sale over a year later. This upgrade means the huge HD displays for the iDrive, fully digital gauge cluster and overall electronics that feel totally up-to-date versus yestertech.
The Z4 betters the Supra in cabin insulation and refinement, even playing softtop versus hardtop, thanks to so much more insulation and soft-touch elements. More metallic details also break up the monotony of black plastic dominating Supra cabin. Supra with dedicated cupholders is more practical than Z4 with its cupholders hidden under the center armrests. The console lid has split doors so drive can maintain an armrest with a cup or bottle onboard, but it is inherently compromised for daily living.
From the Z4 driver’s seat, another notable change is the overall comfort. The old machine really crashed over big potholes and expansion joints in a way that went right up your spine sometimes. This new model takes the edge off completely and actually rides like a magic carpet in comparison. It is really surprising how much precision there is around corners with shocks this comfy, but that is part of the BMW magic.
Cushy and comfy ride that no Z4 or Z3 has ever had before? Check.
Roomy cabin with decent elbow room and a pretty generous trunk? Half-check. You will still have grocery bags in the footwells if you really fill your cart when doing the weekly shop. The trunk is shallow but quite wide and can fit two golf bags without too much finagling.
This cabin rocks and makes the Z4 feel like a practical daily driver for a wider segment of the population than ever before.
A vastly upgraded platform brings with it this worlds-best turbo powertrain. The Z4 boosts the power levels up to 382 ponies, which feels like a conservative tally versus the huge whoosh of torque at all times and particularly ferocious top end. The extra ponies from 365hp in other M40i applications might be to thank for this, or a factor of the aero and RWD versus xDrive. It really comes down to weight though. This Z4 is a riot on throttle with sprint times of just 3.9-seconds to 60-mph. The off-the-line performance is full of aggression and ultra smooth breakway of the rear grip for a few moments before it hooks up and shoots forward.
The purity if the steering feel is heaven in your hands and the light but ultra-quick rack make for a nimble, frisky and darty plaything when you’re in the mood.
Handling for Z4 never feels quiet as light and nimble over bumpy corners as the Boxster or F-Type. The bumps and lumps in the road are just quashed silently as Z4 charges onward, unflustered. This is easily the most comfortable vehicle in its competitive set, yet it still handles purely and with beautifully balanced precision.
The one place the tester Z4 was somewhat curious was the braking. There is plenty of stopping power but you really, really have to step deep into the pedal travel to access it. It caught us out a few times in first drives and might be off-putting versus the rockhard brakes of any Porsche.
Sporty exhaust burbles are present and delightful in the M40i Z4, and this is definitely a more shouty application of the engine than others. But you really hear the yowl from up front more than the percussion from out back. This gives some character points away to the Jag, but can easily be remedied on the aftermarket.
Overall, performance for this machine is so sublime it makes you fall head over heals for the car. Much less bouncy than Boxster, yet without feeling as staid as the SLC.
The Z4 30i with turbo four power stickers from about $51k and this big turbo six comes in with pricing from $61k. The tester brought this up to $68k with nearly all the options. The price is clearly much higher than Supra, but the Z4 offers better snob appeal with the badge, a fully-automatic cabrio experience and performance that is superior by all objective measures.
With all these merits, can you blame a guy for falling in love? Sexy body, comfy cabin, mighty performance? Triple win, folks!
The final awesome detail of all Z4s is their rarity. Long gone are the days of obliquity for BMW’s most popular roadster ever. The rising prices and shifting tastes of buyers toward SUVs ensure that Z4 will stay special for years to come, and draw admiring glances on the road every time you take it out.
Looking great and making drivers feel good? The Z4 does both exceptionally well and is finally a serious rival to the F-Type and Boxster, while thoroughly walloping the SLC.
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.